Tag Archives: women

Updates

So, I’m getting ready to update this website. I’ll give you a warning before things change. Another update, however, is in order. I’ve been promising that I’d let you know when my forthcoming book with McFarland received its final title. Well, drum roll please! The final title is actually the first title I proposed—Holy Horror: The Bible and Fear in Movies. And it has an ISBN: 978-1-4766-7466-7. And a cover design too, but I can’t share that just yet. It is appropriately lurid, matching the subject. But in all seriousness, the book makes a case for the fact that many people understand their religion via popular media. Being a bad boy, I look at it through horror movies.

The title Holy Horror was a play on Douglas Cowan’s excellent book, Sacred Terror. I recall reading that book, starting the night I bought it as SBL, curled up in the swank conference hotel bed, turning pages until I couldn’t hold my eyes open any longer. It had honestly never occurred to me that religion scholars could get away with writing about horror movies. Cowan had the natural advantage of being a Canadian, something I’ve always longed to be. He also has a secure university post. I was, at the time, just a guy trying to feel secure in what seemed like (and turned out in reality to be) a threatening seminary position that was shortly to end.

It may be difficult to understand how horror can be consoling. It can. I’m a squeamish guy. I don’t like blood and gore. I hate being startled. Nevertheless, I took comfort in this genre as my career was falling apart. Holy Horror was a cathartic book for me to write. There’s more than a little metaphor in it. One thing that will become clear to readers is that the Bible is no stranger to horror movies. Ironically, many of them are strangely conservative—Carol J. Clover’s classic Men, Women, and Chainsaws (which I’ve reviewed on this blog) made that point clearly. Horror often has the same message as your typical Disney film, although it’s presently slightly differently. How so? Well, I can’t say very much here or you’ll have no reason to read my book. McFarland does a great job with publishing this kind of title. You won’t find it in Barnes and Noble, and not likely in your local indie either, but it’ll be available on Amazon and these days that’s enough. And before long these pages will change to reflect its coming.

Engendering Fear

menwomenchainsawWe live in fear. At this point in history, it seems, with good reason. Horror films, apart from being considered low art, teach us to deal with some of these fears. I hadn’t been reading about the genre for very long before I began to notice the repeated references to Men, Women, and Chainsaws: Gender in the Modern Horror Film. This is Carol J. Clover’s seminal study of gender theory and horror. Probably best known for first identifying the trope of “the final girl,” Clover gives much more than that to the conscientious reader. Her chapter on possession movies is among the most insightful that I’ve read. And yes, she does make a very good case for the final girl.

Using theories of gender, she explores why both boys and girls (the former numerically more obvious) flock to such disturbing movies. Although she suggests masochism has something to do with it, is isn’t simply that boys enjoy seeing girls suffer. Quite the opposite. Boys often see themselves in the place of female victims. As with most things associated with gender, it’s far more complicated than it seems. In that sense, this is a book for our time. We live in what George Banks calls “the age of men,” and while Mary Poppins can hardly be called horror, the underlying narrative bears some warning tones. Men, left to their own devices, will seize what power they can grasp. We’ve spent the last five decades teaching men that this is no longer appropriate, only to have that message wiped away with the final trump. Horror can be remarkably pro-feminine. Business, as we’ve seen over and over, is less so.

Not having ever formally studied gender theory, some of the intricacies of Clover’s argumentation were no doubt lost on me. I was, however, able to gather a remarkable amount of appreciation for the subtexts in many of the movies I’ve watched. Gender, you see, touches everything we do. It behooves us to be aware that careless, or thoughtless support of misogyny does not lead to the results that many men suppose. Some horror movies are truly difficult to watch. Not all conform to the standard expectations. What Clover has shown, however, is that often the women are able to draw from a depth of strength to which the male characters lack access. They don’t do so willingly. In fact, they are often reluctant. When the horror is at its end, however, the final girl emerges triumphant.

5 Ways to Protect Women from Exploitation

Please enjoy this guest post by Daphne Holmes:

Women’s roles in society vary from region to region, with some states exhibiting greater equality than others. In the United States, for example, shifts continue to alter women’s place within social and work culture, so American society appears to be moving in a positive direction for many women. Unfortunately, women’s rights and social justice are not always promoted elsewhere, so realizing their potential is an upward struggle for most women worldwide.
Protecting women from exploitation is a moral imperative that sets progressive societies apart from others that do not share a commitment to equal treatment for all members. The following approaches help women’s causes by addressing some of the unique issues they face and supporting a fundamental guarantee of equality.

Remove Systematic Injustice

In order to protect all members of society from exploitation, social structures must be in place to accommodate each group equally, regardless of race, color, gender or creed. Government, for example, must reflect a stance that protects women equally, supporting laws that facilitate their advancement and punish those standing in their way.
A culture of respect instills and perpetuates the correct values, so adopting tolerance for diversity is an essential first-step for raising women’s profile in society. Patriarchal societies, on the other hand, leave the door open to exploitation, because women are deemed insignificant, and their right to excel is not guaranteed.

Ensure Essential Needs

Surviving as a woman in a culture that does not acknowledge equal rights can mean diminished access to basic elements of survival. To elevate women’s position in society and protect them from exploitation, fundamental needs like food, health care services, water and shelter must be available to furnish the cornerstones of personal development.

Educate and Enlighten

In many cases, ignorance and outdated thinking are behind exploitation, so education is a powerful tool for protecting victims. The benefits of education are seen in two distinct ways. General knowledge about women’s causes and education about the difficulties they face are enlightening to members of backward societies, opening their eyes to an entirely different standard of equality. And women’s education is also an important feature of equal societies, furnishing vital information that helps women rise-up from oppression. With inroads in both areas, exploitation can be seen for what it is; increasing the likelihood women will escape its ill effects.

Stop Sexualizing Women

For specific progress to occur, general changes must be made to the way women are characterized. Movies and other media, for example, sexualize women with graphic imagery and unflattering portrayals that diminish the progress women make in real life. Valuing women for reasons other than their appearance and sexuality increases their mobility within society. By recognizing their achievements and potential, women enjoy greater opportunity for advancement and suffer less at the hands of exploitation.

Increase Accountability

Women face a number of forms of exploitation worldwide, including sexual trafficking, labor mistreatment and other abuses. Unfortunately, cultural imperatives and other influences prevent most abusers from being held accountable for exploiting women. For lasting reforms to take-hold, consistent punishments must be applied to offenses against women, establishing consequences that curb abuses. And demand must also be slowed, in order to remove the incentives for trafficking and sexual exploitation. Stiff penalties for abusers and access to justice are key features of a system committed to protecting women.

Protecting women from exploitation starts within a culture of respect, acknowledging women’s valuable place in society. Through education and programs supporting women’s rights, even regions slowed by backward thinking and outdated social structure can make positive strides protecting women’s rights. And by changing views and values about women, and enforcing penalties against exploitation, society contributes to constructive outcomes, rather than turning a blind eye to harmful practices.

Author:
Daphne Holmes contributed this guest post. She is a writer from www.ArrestRecords.com and you can reach her at daphneholmes9@gmail.com.

Witching Fiction

WitchesRoadLiterary fiction is a rich trove of religious thinking. Consuming fiction sustains the soul as well as the mind. Sheri Holman’s Witches on the Road Tonight was an impulse buy. The title, the cover, the intricate implications, the price were all right. It turned out to be a rewarding story that involved, possibly, witches and certainly religion. Not that it is a story about religion—definitely not. Yet, the protagonist is a weatherman who dresses as a vampire to present old monster movies on late night television. His relationships define him and, as his daughter learns, he may be the son of a witch. Deeply textured with the earthy reality of the rural poverty-stricken, at several points in the novel a thoroughly naturalized biblical vocabulary effortlessly flows. At crucial moments the story is poised on the crux of heathenism and religiosity. It is a book difficult to forget.

The fascination with witches has deep explanatory roots. When hopes are not realized as they are carefully planned, people naturally seek a scapegoat, someone to blame. Too often in history the blame has fallen on the powerless, the marginalized. Too often on women. In the somewhat enlightened twenty-first century it has become passably safe to declare oneself a witch. Our scientific worldview allows it as a harmless delusion, but the issue is more than it might seem. For some, witchcraft is the only channel available for a power that should belong to all. For others it retains a taint of evil, primarily because of a biblical point-of-view.

Israel in antiquity was a patriarchal culture. It was a man’s world that kept most women from any seat of power. “Witches” in this world are simply those who continue the trajectory of a kind of animistic faith in the vibrant life of nature. Prior to “revelation” it was self-evident that nature itself was full of vitality—spirits—if you will. When God was added to the equation, the life-force of nature fell on the “less than” side of the comparison. Even today children recognize the shaman under the name “witch-doctor,” euphemistically applied to those closer to nature than to the Bible. Reading Witches on the Road Tonight brought all of this back to me. Although largely set in New York City, it spoke to me as a rural urbanite who left something valuable in the woods of my childhood.